I WOULD like to respond to the letter “A mistake to decentralise Form 3 exam” ( The Star, Jan 15) since this matter is of utmost importance to tens of thousands of stakeholders, and especially the school authorities.
Apparently, decentralisation of the Form 3 exam (PT3) has been a hot topic of discussion among teachers, school administrators and parents, and, unfortunately, there has been no consensus of opinion.
The writer opined at length to oppose the decentralisation of PT3, highlighting the failure of the system in the United States as an example.
However, my nephew who has three teenage children studying in Florida always criticises the centralisation of education in our country when he is back here on holiday. Decentralisation of education has been practised in the US for umpteen years.
Thus, my views on this subject are absolutely opposed to the writer’s.
For decades, we have been having the standardised Form 3 exam, first known as SRP, then PMR and now PT3, where marks are allocated for assignments besides the highly centralised standardised year-end exam conducted by the Education Ministry.
But with decentralisation, the administration of the exam will be handled by the schools themselves, that is the principals and teachers are solely responsible for running the exam.
This means that the responsibility will be shouldered by the school authorities.
Consequently, I believe this will lead to more flexible, innovative and creative management of the exam by the schools and with supervision from the district education office and state education department, leaving the Education Ministry to focus mainly on policy matters.
The teachers who are directly concerned with teaching and assessing the students are in the best position to know exactly what the subject matters to be tested are, including the HOTS (high order thinking skills) critical and problem-solving questions.
Naturally, the principals would be more confident of the capabilities of their teachers to shoulder such responsibilities as they work together for their students’ academic performance.
Decentralisation of the exam will empower and enable the principals to tap the resources of the teachers to do things more effectively and efficiently, which invariably will raise the level of motivation among the teachers, who will be groomed and encouraged to take on more responsibilities.
Like lecturers at institutions of higher learning, the teachers teach their students, set the appropriate exam questions and mark the answer papers in order to assess the students’ academic performance.
Additionally, every member of staff needs to be actively involved in the process of conducting the exam, particularly those in the lower administrative level who are often tasked with printing and storing the exam questions in the strongroom for security reasons.
With decentralisation of the Form 3 exam, the principals and teachers will have to make important decisions regarding the academic wellbeing of their students.
And most importantly, students will not be pressured or stressed by the school authorities in the public exam to achieve straight As and high overall results in quantity and quality to unnecessarily compete unhealthily with other schools and to please the education authorities.
Actually, the system of decentralisation administered by the Education Ministry is not foreign to schools. It is just an extension of the diagnostic monthly or term tests that schools routinely conduct to assess students on what have been taught and the summative end-of-the-year exam to determine their performance.
Ultimately, decentralising PT3 will result in enhancing the level of professionalism among principals, teachers and clerical staff to conduct a public exam themselves.
All they need, I suppose, is financial allocation from the Education Ministry, and this should not be a problem because they will save enormous funds and manpower by not conducting the PT3 exam.
Nonetheless, the district and state education departments must ensure that there is the highest level of integrity, credibility and accountability among the school authorities to win the confidence of parents in particular, that the schools are prepared and able to administer the school-based Form 3 exam themselves.
The check-and-balance assessment of the school education system will eventually be the ultimate Form 5 exam which, unlike the PT3, is recognised by almost all local and foreign colleges and universities, and employers.
Thomas Kok Ipoh The STAR Malaysia Opinion Letters January 18, 2018